IOWA CITY — The University of Iowa’s Finkbine Golf Course has been losing an increasing amount of money recently, and now for the first time the UI is seeking a partner to manage Finkbine and its new clubhouse in hopes a change would, among other things, “improve the golf course financials.”
UI’s request urges potential partners to review the 18-hole course’s budget for the last three years — showing a loss of nearly $300,000 in 2018 — and “identify areas where it would seek improvement and an indication of how it would propose to do so.”
The UI will choose a partner that, among other things, presents the “best business plan with the highest profitability and lowest cost while providing premier service and play.”
Prospective partners also must lay out marketing strategies and potential changes to the course fee structure — which now offers walk-in rates from $20 to $48, depending on number of holes, day, time and UI affiliation. Seasonal membership rates range from $400 for high schoolers or younger to $2,700 for non-UI affiliated families.
The UI Athletics-operated “championship” Finkbine — spanning 7,200 yards at the western edge of campus — serves the Hawkeye golf teams in addition to members of the UI community and public. It hosts 18,000 to 22,000 rounds of golf a year.
Construction is underway on a $10 million, 22,000-square-foot clubhouse, featuring a pro-shop, full-service bar, dining facility, kitchen, locker rooms and an “outdoor event lawn.” It’s scheduled for completion in February 2020 — in time for the 2020 golf season — and is part of a grander vision to redevelop 44 acres of UI-owned land adjacent to Finkbine with amenities like a boutique hotel, micro conference center, private member club, retail shops and even residential housing.
The UI Athletics Department long has managed and maintained the course, driving range, and James M. Hoak Family Golf complex. But the new clubhouse, along with its dining and hospitality opportunities, lets Iowa “explore efficiencies in operations,” according to UI spokesman Steve Roe.
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The course has been operating in the red for at least three years, documents included in the request for a potential partner show, with the UI spending $67,285 more than it made in the 2016 budget year, $151,316 more than it made in 2017 and $294,338 more than it made in 2018.
Finkbine saw an $82,376 dip in green fees revenue from 2016 to 2018. Expenses for salaries, meanwhile, jumped $73,273 — from $690,021 in 2016 to $763,294 in 2018.
A tally of current Finkbine staff lists 10 positions — including a PGA director of golf and head golf professional — along with several part-time workers.
Potential partners must provide a staffing plan. That plan, according to the documents, should involve collaboration with the UI “to evaluate those displaced from UI athletics positions as a result of this change in management.”
An outside company’s management will include maintenance of the golf course and adjacent grounds, including the clubhouse’s pro shop and offices, restaurant, bar, kitchen, maintenance shop, storage area and outdoor seating. It must stock and operate the pro shop, maintain and potentially replace golf carts and present a plan for UI-owned equipment — which includes six 20-year-old golf carts.
The intended term of a contract is five years, with the option for another five-years. Proposals are due June 12.
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